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Monday, February 11, 2008

Road Trip To Utah - Day 1

My brother Matthew, and his wife Sarah, live in Utah and as a member of the United States Air Force, he's subject to being transferred to just about anywhere in the world. He's known he was going to be deployed somewhere, at some time, but didn't know where or when until Thursday, January 31st, 2008. At that time, he found out he was going to a base in South Korea, and he would be leaving on Thursday, February 7th, 2008 - exactly one week's time. He was only going to be there a limited amount of time, and since his wife Sarah couldn't go, he didn't want her to have to live alone for that period. He had asked if she could stay with family back here in Illinois, so it was decided that she would live at my house, as I was a good candidate and we shared similar interests.
When the word came down that Matthew was leaving, I packed some clothes, 2 party-sized bags of peanut M&M's and my camera and prepared to leave for Utah. At the last moment, my sister's husband Phillip said he would go with me to keep me company and share the driving time. Karla, my sister, couldn't go, as she had college to attend to. I figured it would be an adventure and a chance for him and I to hang out together. Phillip and I are close to the same age, so we share similar tastes and get along well with each other. Our first goal was to get to Utah with enough time to see my brother before he had to fly out. So, with that in mind, we headed out on the road on Monday, February 4th, 2008, at approximately 5 p.m. From that moment on, the trip took on a life of it's own.

Day 1 - February 4th, 2008

Starting point: Norris City, Illinois
Finishing point: Nebraska City, Nebraska
Starting time: 5 p.m.
Finishing time: 2 a.m.
Miles travelled: 567

I left from my home in Norris City earlier than the 5 p.m. starting time would indicate, as I had to drive 30 miles to pick up Phillip and his stuff in Fairfield, Illinois. But, when we had gotten everything loaded into his minivan, we left for Utah at approximately 5 p.m., with him driving the first shift. When we left Illinois, the weather here was 70 degrees. By the time we arrived in Layton, Utah two days later, that temperature would drop to -2 degrees below zero. Not counting the wind chill factor.

Phillip, on the left, and me.

We started out with plenty of snacks for the trip so we wouldn't have to stop every few miles for food. We planned to only stop for gasoline and meals, hoping these events would occur at the same stop. He also had his IPod filled with plenty of classic rock for the trip - The Moody Blues, Santana, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, etc. Those groups would have been perfect for a road trip. He even had Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf, which no road trip should be without. Unfortunately, the IPod connected through the in-dash cassette deck in the minivan and would not play right. We pulled off the road after about 5 miles so that he could see if it could be fixed. I, myself, am not IPod compatible due to the legal wranglings between The Beatles' company named Apple and Apple Computers, which came out with the IPod. Therefore, he had to be the one to try and fix it.

First stop, five minutes down the road.

IPod repairs.

He never did get it to work properly, even though he fooled with it for at least an hour and a half. Almost until we left I-64 West at St. Louis, Missouri, and transferred to I-70 West. We figured the cassette deck was at fault and would not allow it to play properly. It was a valiant effort, but in the end, we had to do without all that beautiful travelling music.

The Gateway Arch and the riverfront area, St. Louis, Missouri.

Kansas City here we come.

After we had left St. Louis, we settled in for a steady night's drive. At least, that's what we thought. Unfortunately, the weather stepped in to prevent us from having an uneventful trip. The first time of many that it did so. I didn't find out until 2 days later, but this was the night that storms ripped through the midwest, spawning dozens of tornadoes and killing over 60 people. I also found out that four tornadoes passed over my hometown of Norris City, but fortunately, they didn't touch down there. Well, I'm certain that we went through activity that could have spawned a tornado, but all we saw was lots of rain and thunder and lightning. After we had gotten past that, we ran into a heavy fog. To tell the truth, I think we saw every kind of weather pattern imaginable on this trip, except maybe drought.
Before we got to Kansas City, we found a truck stop to eat a very late dinner. We tried for a fast food joint, but none either suited our preferences or were still open. The truck stop restaurant had good food, but their bathroom was closed for repairs so it's customers had to use this huge semi trailer-sized porta-john located in front. It was not a very pleasant atmosphere for either one of us. We ate and quickly got back on the road.

I-70 West took us to Kansas City, Missouri, which we skirted around and got onto I-29 North, headed for Iowa. The particular route we had chosen consisted mainly of staying on interstates the whole way and aside from about 30 miles between Iowa and where we stopped for the first night, and from there into Lincoln, Nebraska, we were able to keep to them. Another peculiarity of this trip was that we only spent about four and a half miles in Iowa on the way out and the same amount coming back. And, owing to the fact that the first time we went through it was at night, there wasn't much of the area to be seen. But, I'll have a few pictures to post of the state on the return trip, Day 6.

Once into Iowa, we found a shortcut that led us in the general direction of I-80 West, our next major road. It was getting late, so we found a decent-sized town called Nebraska City that was on into Nebraska and stopped to find a motel. The first one we tried, about a block from the road we were using, was booked up completely, so we had to try one of the other three located there. We drove past them all, giving them the once over, but in the end, we decided that one called the Deluxe Inn looked to be the best of the lot.

The Deluxe Inn. Nice.... but hardly a seven-star motel like the sign would indicate.

We pushed the buzzer, at about 2 a.m., and a guy that must have surely been asleep came to check us in. He was Indian and very friendly about it, though. I couldn't imagine being as cordial if I had been awakened from sleep at that hour. We basically got our room and went up to the second floor and crashed. I left a wake-up call for 6 a.m. the next morning, as we wanted to leave by 7 to get a good start on the day. It's a good thing we did. It started snowing just before we left, so we wolfed down a donut for me and a cup of coffee for him and drove away.

The breakfast buffet at the Deluxe Inn.

The front facade of the Deluxe Inn, as we were leaving the next morning.

As we drove away amidst snow flurries that kept getting heavier by the minute, we began Day 2 of our trip. Little did we know what awaited us just down the road apiece. That part will be continued in my next blog. Be sure not to miss it!

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